Paleo lab experience

Posted by GT on September 14th, 2014 — Posted in

Todd Powell, mold maker, painter and fabricator for Triebold Paleontology in Woodland Park, Colo.


  • Designing and making molds, primarily using silicone mold materials, but often latex. Make clean, complete resin pours with minimal bubbles. Molded numerous fossils, which are irreplaceable, delicate and must not suffer serious stress. In addition to picking the proper methods and preparing items for molding, mold design includes choosing the casting method that will be used by co-workers for the entire life of the mold.
  • Casting with resins and other materials. Includes use of rotocaster, pressure pots and brushable materials.
  • Sculpting and fabricating with putties, including epoxy putties and auto body materials.
  • Construction of cast resin fossil replica skeletons.
  • Painting with acrylics, including brushed-on paints, sprayers and airbrushes.
  • Prepping resin castings for assembly and/or display.
  • Prepping, cleaning and restoring genuine fossils for display, storage or molding.

Noteworthy materials

  • Molding silicones and latex.
  • Casting resins.
  • Hydrocal and other plasters.
  • Forton MG.
  • Epoxy putties.
  • Auto body putties, i.e. Bondo.
  • Air abrasives.
  • Acrylic paints.
  • Spray primers and paints.
  • Solvents.

Notable large projects

  • 3D construction of Terminonarus Robusta, an 18-foot prehistoric crocodile, for the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina, Saskatchewan. I was part of the team, primarily two people, that removed distortions from cast bones and fabricated missing elements to create full skeletons for display at the museum. I led molding of the new masters, helped cast and build two skeletons and a third, disarticulated skeleton, and painted the skeletons.
  • 3D construction of the skull of Megacephalisaurus for Triebold Paleontology, working with molds and a genuine fossil from the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kan. I was part of the team, primarily two people, that removed distortions from cast bones and fabricated missing elements to create a full skull for display at museums around the world. I led mold making, helped build the prototype skull and painted the prototype.
  • Helped fabricate, mold and cast a large dig box attraction for the Sioux City Public Museum in Sioux City, Iowa.
  • Helped resculpt and accurize various pterosaur sculptures for Triebold Paleontology, with significant input from paleo artist Mark Witton, author of two pterosaur books.
  • Helped lead the team that restored and molded a genuine Megalonyx skeleton, a giant ground sloth housed at McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Ala. We repaired, prepped and restored the bones, fabricated missing elements and molded the entire thing. The project started on location in Birmingham, where we molded parts such as the skull that couldn’t be moved, then finished at TPI’s home in Woodland Park.

Additional noteworthy fossil molding subjects

  • Cave bear and wooly rhino skulls.
  • Xiphactinus skeleton for Royal Saskatchewan Museum, on location in Regina.
  • Pliosaur skeleton, on location in Winnipeg.
  • Daspletosaur skeleton, a tyrannosaur at TPI, in progress.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex jaw.
  • Apatosaurus femur for the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Protostega and platecarpus skeletons for TPI.

Noteworthy paint projects

  • Xiphactinus life restoration, a 12-foot prehistoric fish, for the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park. Supposed to be shown in a future episode of River Monsters on Animal Planet.
  • Appalachiosaurs, a small tyrannosaur, for Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tenn.
  • Nanotyrannus skeleton and ceratopsian skull, among others, for the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center.
  • Stangerochampsa, champsosaurus and didelphodon skeletons, plus meniscoessus skull, for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

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